This cheese Danish is made from store-bought puff pastry and a filling of cream cheese, sugar, egg, vanilla, and lemon zest. It’s easy and perfect for Hanukkah and Christmas and weekends. (Ok, any time.)
The author of this recipe recalls that when she was growing up, cheese Danishes were everywhere in New York City. And they all tasted exactly the same. Which is not to say they were bad. But they were mass-produced pastries that weren’t startlingly spectacular in that way small-batch, made-from-scratch cheese Danish tend to be. This recipe is something of her childhood Danish trauma turned upside down and turns out something pretty unforgettable. Trust us. It just may ruin all other Danish for you. Even when you cheat and use store-bought puff pastry, there’ll be no complaints. Originally published December 5, 2015.–Renee Schettler Rossi
Why We're Puff Pastry Snobs
We’ve got no shame about the fact that this easy cheese Danish recipe relies on frozen puff pastry sheets. Where our snobbishness tends to come in regarding different brands of frozen puff pasty. The most common and affordable brand is Pepperidge Farm, and this recipe was actually designed with the specific dimensions of that brand in mind as the ideal. Opt for this, and you’ll end up with a perfectly fine cheese Danish. But if, like us, you want puff pastry made with real butter and just a handful of ingredients that you can pronounce, and if you want pastry that puffs into über flaky and shatteringly crisp layers, then you want the slightly pricier Dufour brand, which is knee-wobblingly rich and just all-around magnificent. If you swap a 1-pound package of Dufour for the package size called for in the recipe that follows, note that the Dufour dimensions are slightly smaller. As such you’ll need to scale the recipe back a little by trimming a couple inches from one side of the square dough to obtain a rectangle. And you probably won’t need quite all the cream cheese filling, which means you can plop a dollop of cream cheese filling smack in the center of those puff pastry scraps, bring the opposite corners together above the filling, and bake. Sorta as a teaser for that lovely full-size Danish that you don’t want to cut into become company arrives. Because it would be seriously unholy to waste any of these Danish makings.
- Quick Glance
- 30 M
- 1 H
- Serves 10 to 12
- 1 sheet frozen puff pastry* (the instructions are for Pepperidge Farm puff pastry; if using Dufour, see the Why We’re Puff Pastry Snobs note above)
- Flour, for the baking sheet
- 12 ounces (1 1/2 cups) cream cheese, left at room temperature for at least 30 minutes
- 1 large egg, separated
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 2 teaspoons for sprinkling
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (preferably organic)
- Dash salt
- 1. Thaw the puff pastry at room temperature for 45 minutes.
- 2. Place the cream cheese, egg yolk, 1/4 cup sugar, vanilla, lemon zest, and salt in a medium bowl and beat together with an electric mixer until smooth. Cover and place in the fridge until the dough is ready.
- 3. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Tear off a piece of parchment paper the size of a jelly roll pan or a 12-by-16-inch (30-by-40-centimeter) baking sheet. Lightly sprinkle the parchment paper with flour.
- 4. Unroll the puff pastry on the parchment paper and, using a rolling pin, roll it out until it measures about 12 by 15 inches (32 by 38 centimeters). After every few rolls, carefully lift up the puff pastry and sprinkle a little more flour underneath it.
- 5. Rotate the pastry on the parchment paper so it’s vertical when you look at it. (In other words, so one of the short sides is facing you.) Use the back of a knife to lightly score the dough into 3 long, vertical columns, being careful not to cut all the way through the dough.
- 6. Remove the cream cheese filling from the fridge and spread it in the center column, leaving a 1-inch (2 1/2-centimeter) plain puff pastry border on the top and bottom edges of the column. Fold down the top edge of the puff pastry 1/2 inch (2 centimeters) over the filling to seal it. Take your knife and, leaving the side columns attached to the center column, cut horizontal slits in the 2 side columns, starting about 3/4 inch (2 centimeters) before the cream cheese filling begins and slicing all the way to the edge of the pastry, making 1-inch-wide (2 1/2-centimeter) strips. [Editor’s Note: This will make a heck of a lot more sense when you have the ingredients in front of you. Trust us.]
- 7. Now, starting at the top, take the top strip on the right side and pull it over the cream cheese filling at a downward angle and press it into the cream cheese. Take the top strip from the left side and cross it over the top strip from the right side and press to seal. Repeat on the right side and keep alternating until you get to the bottom. When you get to the bottom 2 strips, cross them over each other but this time go up the pastry. Fold the bottom pastry up 1/2 inch (2 centimeters) over the filling to seal it.
- 8. Beat the reserved egg white and lightly brush it on the pastry. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 teaspoons sugar. Slide the parchment paper and the cheese Danish onto a baking sheet. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until golden. Serve warm. Store in the fridge for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Reheat to serve.